Encounters with Tommyknockers

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I worked for several years as a guide on an historic silver mine tour during it’s annual 100+ day season. Actually, I worked one off season as a miner in a gold mine, and the following summer was a tour guide there. I also spent several months working on a mine closing project. This was all in Colorado in the 1990s.

I am a clairvoyant and have had many experiences with ghosts, the little people (or the Good People, as you prefer), and a few entities I don’t know how to label. So, here goes about the Tommyknockers.

Tommyknockers are entities who live underground, who can and do interact with humans who are underground. Sometimes they are seen. Belief in them is widespread, and they are known by many names, in many places.

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Calling them Knockers or Tommyknockers comes from the miners in Cornwall, and is the name generally used by hardrock miners in North America, because of the many Cornish miners who worked here in the 1800s.

I’ve been told that in Wales, from where some of my mother’s ancestors came, they were called the Koblinau.

One day at the gold mine, I was telling a tour group about the Tommyknockers, and a lady who was from Czechoslovakia (before it became the Czech Republic), spoke up and said that they had such beings in her old country. She called them the Permonik. (There should be an inverted v symbol over the E but I don’t have that font.)

A week or so later, at the silver mine, there was a lady from the Czech Republic on the tour. When I got to the part about the Tommyknockers, I stopped and asked her if she knew about the Permonik. The question surprised her, but she admitted that she did. I asked her to please tell the group about them. She did, and what she said was almost word for word what I normally told groups about them.

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Like most of the little people, the Tommyknockers can be anything from friendly and helpful, to malicious and vindictive. According to the lore, they might knock on the rock or timbers to warn a miner of danger (and, seriously, rock and timber noise can be a sign of danger), or they might blow out his candle, back in the days when they worked by candlelight.

There are stories of them leading lost miners to safety after they lost their lights, and even of them leading the miners to richer ore. On the other hand, they might also put out a miner’s light maliciously, dump his lunch, hide his tools or drop them down a winze, trip him, and so on.

Because of this, many miners had a habit of leaving a bit of food or tobacco for them, and some mines even had carved images of Tommyknockers at the portals, for the miners to touch for luck going in, or in thanks when coming out safely.

Such heathen practices were undoubtedly preached against on Sunday morning, but then again, the preacher wasn’t the one going underground into the Tommyknocker’s territory the other six days of the week!

When I first started working at the silver mine tour, I wasn’t sure about the Tommyknockers, and didn’t bother bringing them up. Then one day (before I worked at the gold mine) I was visiting the gold mine, and the owner offered me a chance to go down into the older parts of the mine, far below the level where visitors normally were allowed.

With a borrowed helmet and lamp, I descended an old wooden ladder down the winze into the old workings, various levels a hundred feet apart dating back to the 1800s. I was alone, and the only light was the one on my helmet.

It was strange, so quiet and hushed. But I wasn’t alone. I could feel someone with me, showing me around. It wasn’t scary at all. It was a warm feeling. I explored the lower reaches of the mine, then eventually climbed back up to the main level and daylight.

After that, I started noticing things like movement in the corners, and sounds, when underground. I read whatever I could find about the Tommyknockers, and I started telling visitors about them. Perhaps because I was friendly and respectful, I had few problems with them (although that was not the case with some others of the little people, but that’s another story).

Granted, most of the visitors didn’t consider the Tommyknockers as much more than an amusing piece of mining folklore, but with most groups there was usually someone, often a child, who was quite interested.

One one tour, there was a Lakota from Canada who was quiet during the tour, but who got quite interested when I started talking about the Tommyknockers. He listened intently then nudged the person with him. “He’s talking about the Little People!” he exclaimed. I spoke with him for a while after the tour, and he shared some beliefs which were very similar.

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Unfortunately, there were also those, usually adolescent males, who would interrupt me to scoff at such things.

I was willing to overlook such rudeness, but the Tommyknockers weren’t.

Mocking the Tommyknockers when one is underground is very foolish.

When it happened on my tour, someone would get hurt. It was never the rude scoffer, but rather the adult who was with them.

It would be minor things, like bumping one’s head, or tripping and falling, it scraping one’s hand on the rock, but it happened every time.

I have no idea why the escorting adult was targeted rather than the young scoffer, but that is what happened. I decided to take action. One day I went back into the mine by myself, and respectfully told the Tommyknockers that the scoffers were young, stupid and ignorant, but hurting people was not acceptable. I knew I couldn’t force the Tommyknockers to behave, but I pointed out that I was their friend, and asked was I not always respectful?

I told them that I could stop telling people about them, however, and that is what I was going to do, if the retaliation didn’t end. Apparently, they enjoyed being talked about, and so there was no more retaliations, at least not on my tours.

Actually it seemed that at least some of the Tommyknockers enjoyed interacting with the tours. Quite often, when the tales were being told, when the knocking on rocks was mentioned, there would be a knocking on the rocks with uncannily perfect timing, from the closed part of the mine.

One day when I was taking a tour off, another guide came up to me after his tour and told me that I had caused quite a sensation during his tour. I asked him what he was talking about. He replied, “All those Tommyknocker noises.” I assured him that I hadn’t set foot in the mine during that tour, and all the other guides had been busy with their own groups.

One day, I had a new employee going on my tour with me to see how it was done.

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When I mentioned knocking on the rocks, there was very definite knocking on the rocks, which got at least some reaction from the visitors.

Afterword, the new employee asked, “Where’s the button?”.

Puzzled, I asked, “What button?”.

The button you push to make the Tommyknocker noises,” she replied.

No, my dear, there was no such button.

*

Part of the folklore about which I was skeptical were the reports about Tommyknockers celebrating Christmas. Although I was aware that the Little People reportedly like celebrations, I considered that celebrating Yule was much more likely for the Tommyknockers, than Christmas would be.

But be that as it may, I walked up through the snow to the mine one cold December night, and let myself in. I didn’t turn on the electric mains, but used a personal light to go several hundred feet into the mine. I sat down on a bench in the well- timbered area we called the lunchroom, lit a candle, and switched off my light and waited.

After a bit, I asked if the Tommyknockers were there. Immediately, right in front of me, there was the sharp sound of two rocks knocking together, even though no loose moving rocks were to be seen.

I asked if that was the Tommyknockers, and once again, there was an immediate clashing together of two unseen rocks. Well, that was good enough for Galena Bob!

I had hoped to sing for them (Welsh ancestry on my mother’s side, you recall), as I had been told the Good People enjoy music, but I had a sore throat, and had to whistle instead.

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I whistled every holiday tune I knew.

After a time, even that began irritating my throat, and I knew that I was going to have to stop soon.

I wished them a happy holiday, turned on my light, and blew out the candle.

As I walked along the adit, heading back to the portal, I resumed whistling.

And someone began whistling along with me…

One more piece of information. Although this extreme behavior is outside my own experience, MaryJoy Martin in her book ‘Twilight Dwellers of Colorado’, reports that the Martin R. Mine at Cripple Creek, Colorado, had Tommyknockers who were extremely vicious.

They would, she reports, deliberately lead miners into danger. They would break timbers and cut cables, and caused premature blasts.

Galena Bob. U.S.

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